Episode Fourteen – Knock Offs

Episode Synopsis

When fans first saw the title of Episode 4, “Dreadnoks Rising” immediately they wanted to know who Zartan would be in this universe and how he would look.  Well, the end result left many fans unsatisfied.  Zartan was essentially a biker, leading a group of bikers, with no hints of his Master of Disguise elements (beyond some voice mimmickry) and no hood or armor.  But, considering we’re witnessing the birth of these characters, it was just a matter of time before Zartan made his return…

And return he does!

The episode starts out with a small Cobra team led by The Baroness meeting with a scientist to go over his newest invention…a “chameleon” camouflage suit.  The scientist brags about “holographic masking” and the Baroness confirms that they have the only prototype.  Once the scientist agrees, she leaves his brain scrambled and his lab in ruins.

Shortly afterwards, we see Zartan, Flint, and Lady Jaye in Flint’s jeep, who is using Zartan to try and track down the Joe team.  Zartan hops on Flint’s GPS and uses it to track his bike, which Snake Eyes is riding.  And Snake Eyes just happens to be hot on Baroness’ trail, as the Joes are taking a detour due to Cobra radio chatter.

Roadblock seems intent on making friends, and reveals some of his own private life…  as Scarlett tracks the mysterious Cobra shipment to a specific location.  As Cobra nears that spot, a run down camper is blocking the road.  As Cobra agents move in to take care of it, the Joes run an ambush!  The camper was the Coyote in disguise.  The ambush gets a bit out of control as Cobra Troopers spring their own attack, and laser fire is exchanged just in time for Flint to arrive.  Flint leaps into action, asking Jaye to watch over the prisoner, however Zartan gets the better of her and charges free.

Dodging laser fire, Zartan and Flint make their way into the fracas, and as the biker tries to get the drop on Snake Eyes, the ninja lashes back with his sword, inadvertently freeing him of his handcuffs.  Flint tries his own sneak attack on the Joe ninja, and the two trade blows as Zartan makes his way into the Cobra transport.  He quickly finds his way to the mysterious device and is encased in the holographic “chameleon suit”.  Facing off against The Baroness, he soon understands the capabilities of this invention and embraces his new found “talents”.

He decides to make his escape and charges through the Coyote with the Cobra transport, speeding away from the firefight.  Tunnel Rat attempts a dramatic stop, but the result is the Cobra transport hurtling from the road with him and Zartan inside.

The Baroness awakens as Flint and Lady Jaye arrive to inquire as to The Baroness’ methods.  She talks her way out of it (somewhat) and Flint decides to team up with Cobra Industries to find this piece of “proprietary equipment” that belongs to them.

Back with the Joes, they stumble upon an unconscious Tunnel Rat, who tells them that The Baroness has escaped.  Meanwhile, the REAL Baroness tries to talk herself out of hot water with Cobra Commander, and Snake Eyes reports her location back to the Joes.  Thinking they’ve been chasing her, they find out now they must double back and that they were apparently tricked.  Meanwhile, a chopper lands to pick up Flint, piloted by none other than Wild Bill!  Reluctantly, Flint allows the Baroness to join them in the chopper with Cobra’s weaponry to even the odds.

In the Coyote, Roadblock is on to Zartan’s plans pretty quick, using his nose to figure out that “Tunnel Rat” isn’t Tunnel Rat at all!  The biker thug lashes out and escapes into the woods.

Back at the site of the firefight, the real Tunnel Rat is revealed by the chopper, and he has to pile onto Snake Eyes’ motorcycle to make his escape.  Duke and his team continues searching for the slippery Zartan, who sneaks up on Roadblock disguised as Duke.  Zartan slips away, putting Roadblock and Duke at odds.  Then, by the Coyote, suddenly “Duke” approaches Scarlett and they jump in the Coyote.  It doesn’t take Scarlett long to figure out who Duke really is, but not before he slaps the cuffs on her.  Scarlett activates her earpiece communicator, and manages to get some intel to the Joes.  Duke goes back to the store and appropriates a tow truck…

Snake Eyes reaches the Coyote first, but Zartan clips him with the truck.  Before he can finish him off, Flint’s chopper swings in and starts tossing machine gun fire at them.  Quickly figuring out the Coyote’s weapon system, the top-mounted gun turret takes out the pursuing copter.  Zartan turns to face Snake Eyes down again, who evades the Coyote just in time for the tow truck to catch up to them, and for Duke to board.  Going toe-to-toe, the challenge suddenly becomes to discover which Duke is the “real” Duke.  Snake Eyes leaps into action, sensing the different heart beat of the imposter, and quickly takes Zartan down.  As the Joes try to remove the suit, and sparks and fries Zartan inside, scorching his eyes…  and quite suddenly, Zartan starts to resemble the Zartan we know and love!

The Joes escape just as Flint, Lady Jaye, and Wild Bill come to take Zartan back into custody.  Back at Cobra Industries, Cobra Commander is attempting to wear the suit, only to find that it apparently bonds with the first person who wears it, and it is now useless.  With the scientist who created it now a permanent vegetable, there seems to be no way to make it work, a fact that Cobra Commander is none too pleased about.  Seeking to redeem herself, The Baroness travels to the prison and confronts Zartan, offering him an early release…

Episode Review

Wow.  Yeah, wow.  This is what G.I. Joe: Renegades is capable of when everything comes together.

The minute the episode launched and we had that erie music over the background of the mysterious laboratory, I knew this was one of the good ones.  The Baroness casually turning the scientist’s brain into pudding, blowing the lab, and the seamless dialog and pacing from that spot forward quickly shot this episode to the top of my favorites list.

I’ll be honest here.  I think Zartan was getting a bad rap amongst the Joe fans.  Everyone was talking down the fact that he was introduced as nothing more than a common biker thug, when the truth is, that’s exactly how he started in the Marvel Comics.  From a certain perspective I can understand the view…Zartan is one of my favorites as well, and you get so accustomed to seeing him a certain way, it can be jarring to try and think of him differently.  Thankfully, Renegades didn’t dwell on that look for one of the most popular characters in this mythology, and took steps to evolve him as quickly as possible.

Taking some elements of his “holographic projectors” from the Marvel Comics, and injecting just a little bit of the ideas from Devils’ Due’s “Wraith” armor, the end result is a cloaked Cobra agent who can make himself look like anyone, using some next generation technology.  And by the end of the episode, the technology is bonded to his body, and with the scorched eyes, quite suddenly, this IS Zartan.  I absolutely LOVE the Zartan look.  The loosely draped hood, the blackened eyes, the chest armor and nearly translucent metallic look on his arms and legs.  Fantastic.  He now really starts to resemble his vintage counterpart, yet is updated rather nicely into the Renegades universe.

But it’s not just about Zartan here.  Even above and beyond Zartan, you have ruthless Cobra agents, you’ve got mature, graphic dialogue (at one point Zartan looks forward to spreading Snake Eyes’ guts all over the road), high-paced firefights, and really excellent animation.  The hand-to-hand combat choreography continues to impress and the action flows exceptionally well.  Even the points of humor that you know almost every animated series has to have are portrayed in a non-painful, somewhat mature way.

Of course no episode is complete without some other guest stars as well, and we get not only Wild Bill in name and face, but we also get a nice reference by Roadblock to “Herschel”, his cousin, who is Heavy Duty.  It’s somewhat humorous to kind of hear it all come together.  Heavy Duty was named Lamont Morris in his first release, then in Valor Vs. Venom he became Roadblock’s cousin, and for The Rise of Cobra, his real name changed to Herschel Dalton.  It all comes full circle.

Throughout the episode, the story progressed, the action was quick-paced, there were consequences, and best of all, a pair of terrific characters were “introduced” that promise to possibly have long-lasting effects on the series.  I was quite impressed with the Homecoming 2-Parter…I absolutely loved The Enemy of my Enemy.  This episode just might have topped them all.

Excellent, excellent job by all involved, and I cannot wait to see where things evolve from here.  One thing I do feel is a bit lacking is the cast of characters (in a matter of speaking).  We’ve seen all these folks introduced (Destro, Firefly, Storm Shadow, Tomax, & Xamot) yet it seems like the only Cobra agent who gets good screentime is The Baroness.  Evidently that changes next week as Storm Shadow takes center stage again, I guess I’m just really looking forward to seeing some other characters start taking a bigger role.  Everyone has been introduced.  It’s time to get things going.

Screenshot Gallery (courtesy of HissTank.com)

Episode Details

Original Airdate – March 18, 2011
Writer: Tom Pugsley
Director: Scott Bern

Easter Eggs

  • The Copter pilot is none other than William “Wild Bill” Hardy, and there is even a cow skull on his helicopter celebrating his Western heritage.
  • Roadblock references his “cousin Herschel”.  In the later G.I. Joe continuity, Roadblocks’ cousin is Heavy Duty, who’s real name in The Rise of Cobra was “Herschel Dalton”